Sitting in a friend’s kitchen one Summer’s day in Dallas 10 years ago, I was gripped with awe, when I saw the harsh light of mid-day pierce the trees outside and the fronds of an intervening household plant, before exploding inside the heads of flowers adorning a vase. The purple of the flowers and the cobalt blue of the vase’ seemed to enhance each other in the same way that the shapes of the jagged shards of porcelain matched the irregular jumble of the flowers’ leaves and stems.
The final effect was so subtle and so ephemeral, that it seemed as if the flowers had morphed into candles, some bright and some extinguished, but all beautiful. Coming to my photographic senses, I rushed to get my camera. I doubted if I could capture it with what was then my first-generation digital camera.
The result was an exercise in Still Life. The serendipitous nature of the occasion did not allow me to pay more attention to the composition of the elements in the image, prior to capturing it. Therefore a small crop was necessary to exclude the jarring colour of the light on the table on which the vase stood and I had to accept that the flowers on the right are marginally out of frame.
The contrast between the glare of the day and the shadow of the vase created a stark effect of “contre-jour”? What is the English expression for that? Oh yes, it is contre-jour! To emphasise the flower heads in that light, I had to blur out the background at the same time as lightening the image from the front, given the excessive contrast between the dark side of the vase and the glaring light from the window.
Therefore, I chose a wide aperture to throw the background out of focus and compensated for the glaring light by use of flash to lighten the vase, which was in shadow. I was pleased with the result.
Camera: Nikon D70
Lens: 18-70mm zoom f/3.5-4.5G
Focal Length: 31 mm
Focus Mode: AF-S
Autofocus Area Mode: Single
Shutter Speed: 1/400s
Exposure Mode: Aperture Priority
Exposure Compensation: O
ISO Sensitivity: 400
Flash 0.0 EV
Light is so amazing in terms of its effect on different kinds of surfaces and materials. Do you pay attention to what it is doing around you? When you do see a gorgeous sight, do you reach for a camera, or do you just sit and drink it in? There is much to be said for “staying in the moment”, but I was glad to have made a decision to act photographically, so as to be able to share this with you.
Copyright Paul Grayson 2015